When Saturday came Mila woke up very early. She baked two 10-litre buckets full of her yummy muffins.

“Mmm! What’s that nice smell?” screamed one of her nephews, when they woke up to the smell of vanilla filling the kitchen.

Mila had baked different flavours: vanilla, chocolate, mint, and bran.

Everyone was getting ready for the event. She put on her long, flowing, traditional, red and black skirt, called umbhaco, and wrapped around her doek decorated with colourful beads. She was one proud village girl, and never minded being teased as uNolali.

When they got to the hall there was a flurry of activity.

As the ceremony was taking place in the big hall, Mila and the other stall holders were busy clearing and packing up in the kitchen. Her muffins had sold like fat cakes!

“How are things, Sbari?” asked Mila, counting stacks of notes and coins from her sales as Jack came in. “I can’t believe all my muffins are finished! Gone, just like that. If I had known, I would have baked three buckets full.”

“You can arrange with the school while you are still looking for a job, and come sell them on Saturdays when we have market day on the sport’s field,” said Jack.

Meanwhile, he kept on checking the time, looking a bit anxious.

“What’s up? Everything alright?” asked Mila.

“We are still waiting for the dancing group. I have been calling them. They are supposed to be on stage, as soon as Mrs Donga finishes her talk,” he said, taking his phone to check on them again.

Mila smiled and took off her apron. She put the empty muffin buckets down and fixed her doek nicely.

“Let me save you, bhuti, from this shame! Keep calling your dancers but in the meantime leave it to me. I will go up on stage and do what I am known for back home!”

“No! Mila, don’t do that. Come back!” Jack called after her, as he answered another call. “It’s them!” he shouted after Mila, but she didn’t hear him. “Hallo, Mr Mpofu,” he told the leader of the group, “How far are you now? … okay … I will give you five more minutes. Please hurry. We need those dancers on stage right now!” he said, cutting him off and putting his phone back in his pocket.

Then he ran back into the hall. When he entered he got the shock of his life. People were clapping as the MC was introducing Mila to the excited audience. Then she spoke, confidently.

“That is true, I am Mila. I am from a beautiful rural village along the Keiskamma River. Mr Soli, the organizer of this celebration, is my brother- in-law. He has told me only beautiful things about the principal, who he has adored so much all these years: Mama Sandlana. So the song I am going to sing is a happy song. A song of joy, and it is called Umama.

Everyone was looking lovingly at this bubbly, gorgeous young woman, so energetic and confident.

Owam umam’uyajabula
(My mother always rejoices)
Owam umama uyajabula
Qho xa ndifik’ekhaya
(Everytime I arrive home)
Qho xa ndifik’ekhaya
Umama wam uyajabula.
(My mother is always rejoicing)

As she sang and danced, she was looking towards Mrs Sandlana with love, making funny, happy faces. The whole panel sitting with the principal were in stitches with laughter.

“Oh, this child? How does she know that old song?” The principal could not help herself but stood up waving a white handkerchief.

The dancers arrived and marched up on stage while the audience gave a standing ovation for Mila. She was smiling as she walked down and joined the crowd.

Jack was standing by the door, still speechless.

“I told you,” said Mila passing him by. “Miriam Makeba in the making.”


Tell us: Were you surprised by Mila’s confidence?